Vic and Greg took their time Monday morning, Greg having no desire to join the early morning traffic. It was always busy in the city - Greg didn't like it, but had grown up driving in it - and the morning "rush" was anything but rushing, as the freeways and main surface streets were jammed almost to a standstill with commuters all trying to get to work at the same time. Cliff had taken the day off, so the four of them enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, then sat drinking coffee and tea for another hour. Merry had a Meyer Lemon tea that Vic found enjoyable.

   "I didn't get to show you much of where I grew up," Greg said to Vic, "But I don't know that there's really that much to see. Our neighborhood is pretty much as it was, almost all of the houses built before the Second World War, and kept up pretty well over the years. Well, the big change I guess was the building of the temples on what used to be called Cow Hill. The Mormon Temple, which we drove by on our way in to town - and which you can see if you go outside and look east - wasn't completed until 1964, but the Mormons had actually owned the land since about the time I was born. We didn't know that, and thankfully, they waited to build until just a few years ago, so several generations of us kids had the run of the place, and made good use of it - sliding down the steep grassy slopes on pieces of cardboard, throwing grass bombs at one other..."

   "What's a grass bomb?" Vic interrupted.

   "A grass bomb? Now, that is a very sophisticated weapon, used in battles against your friends, or against interlopers approaching your hill from the school district on the other side. At certain times of year, when the wild oats are growing two feet tall, you can pull up great clumps of them, with a ball of soil attached. You can swing that sheaf of grass and dirt around, then let it fly wherever, or at whoever, you want.  All in all, the kind of weapon a child would find harmless, but a parent might worry about loose particles of soil getting in somebody's eye. I never heard of it happening, but you know how parents are."

   "Yes, Gregory," said his mother, "Being parents at the time, we were exactly that way. Thankfully, we didn't know a lot of what you were doing. Being blithefully ignorant isn't good parenting, but it's less stressful."

   Greg grinned at her. "Now, Mom, there was another weapon that parents might well have worried about, even if we kids didn't. The soil on Cow Hill has a lot of clay in it, and you can knead it into tight little balls, If you placed one of those clay balls on the end of a stick, you could hurl that projectile so far that nobody would know where it landed. Of course, if it happened to hit another kid, it could give a pretty good sting."

    "The whole place  sounds pretty dangerous to me," Vic observed. "So, were there cows on Cow Hill?"

   "Almost certainly at some time in the past, but I don't think by the time we played there. Oakland was pretty civilized by then, and Cow Hill was one of the few bits of open land close to town.

   "Oh, I thought of another thing we did. Did you ever play 'Kick the Can'?"

   "I don't think so. Is it dangerous, too?"

   "No, no danger involved. It did have a tendency to drive parents and neighbors a little crazy, at times. On summer evenings, we went on with the game until long after dark. We had some complaints, I know. Kick the Can was a hide-and-go-seek game, in which everybody hid while the person who was 'it' counted to some number, and then went looking for the hiders. When a person was found, there was a race back to 'home.' If the hider got there first, and kicked the can, the seeker had to start the count all over again. We used to count to 100 or 50 or whatever it was by pounding the can on the street. This let the hiders know when we were finished counting and were coming to find them. Of course, it also let all the neighbors know that the game was going on!"

   "I can see how it might not be entirely welcomed by those living nearby."

   "One non-play thing that has changed significantly in your lifetime is the loss of our corner groceries," said Merry.

   "That's true. I'd hadn't thought of them." Greg turned to Vic. "In the '40s and '50s, there were neighborhood markets all over Oakland. We had two within easy walking distance, one about four block away and another about eight blocks away. These weren't like the little 'convenience stores' we have now, that sell beer, soft drinks, snacks, and a few items of real food. These were real full-service markets. You could watch the manager slice your lunch meat while you waited. You could buy eggs, bread, flour, frozen foods,  canned goods - just about anything you needed. If Mom ran out of baking powder, it was 'Greg, run down to the store.'

   "There was a big Safeway - well, big for the time - a mile and a half away, where the bank, post office, library, movie theater and such were located, but I don't think you went down there more than every other week, did you, Dad?"

   "We'd be down there to the bank or the post office fairly regularly, but to Safeway? Probably not more than once a month, if we wanted something special or unusual, or wanted to stock up on something on sale. We had milk delivery at home, and had bread delivered for a while. We didn't have as much variety of brands at the corner stores but, of course, even Safeway didn't carry 25 different varieties of baked beans in those days. Choices were limited, compared to what we have now, but we never suffered with poor quality of stuff. Our expectations were just lower."

   "When we leave, Vic - which we better do, shortly - I'll drive us across town, so I can show you my schools, our shopping area, and such. Mom and Dad, this has been a super visit, but we better head north. I don't know where we'll get today, but somewhere up toward the redwoods."

   "Well, I made you some sandwiches and some other goodies, so you won't have to stop until you get out of town," said Merry.

   They did leave soon after. Greg showed Vic where their closest corner market had been, drove them by his grammar school (which looked remarkably the same as when he went there), then past the junior high (the start of his troubles!). MacArthur Boulevard, one of the main arteries across the city, took them through Dimond, their nearest shopping center, and about two miles farther on came to his high school.

   "It looks like a castle," Vic observed. "And it is very pink!"

   "It is very pink. Depending on our moods at various times, it was fondly known as either 'the Pink Palace,' or the 'Pink Prison.' It's a little over two miles from our house. We usually took the city bus in the morning, so we didn't have to get up too early, but I usually walked home in the afternoon."

   "With a girlfriend, your mother said."

   Greg glanced over at her. "My mother has been telling my secrets. Actually, she was a friend who was a girl, rather than a girlfriend. We were both pretty young to be thinking in the latter terms. We walked home almost every day during my last school year, and she lived another mile or so beyond my house, and I always walked with her all the way. Good exercise, good company."

   "What happened to your friend who was a girl?"

   "You know, I've wondered about that.  Even if it wasn't a boy-girl thing, it seems like we must have developed a pretty good friendship after that long, yet I can't remember any contact with her after I graduated. Did I just go off, and not keep in touch? That doesn't sound like me. Did she move away? I just don't know."

   As they talked, they'd passed the skyscraper area of downtown Oakland (not very large an area, Vic thought, considering the extent of Oakland), and MacArthur Boulevard was merging with the Nimitz Freeway near the access to the Bay Bridge. Traffic was moderate, but was moving along fairly briskly. Greg followed the freeway north a few more miles, then exited into Richmond, and eventually arrived at the toll bridge that crosses north San Francisco Bay to San Rafael in Marin County.

   "From Oakland, there are really only two logical ways to go north up the Redwood Highway," Greg explained. "One is to cross the Oakland-San Francisco Bridge, drive through San Francisco, then cross into Marin County over the Golden Gate Bridge. The other is to come up here to cross. My dad never liked driving through San Francisco, with all its traffic and steep hills, so we often came this way. However, this bridge wasn't opened until 1956. Before then, you had to take a ferry to the other side. We did that most of the times we went north to Navarro, or elsewhere up the coast. It was a fun break from normalcy for us kids."

   On the Marin side of the bridge, Greg pointed out the famous San Quentin Prison, then they were on Highway 101 - the Redwood Highway - headed north. It was warm  - near 90, now that they were away from the influence of the Bay - and traffic was moderate but moving along well. Most of the first couple hours was through flat farmland, with orchards and vineyards. It was pleasant enough, but didn't really command their attention.

   "I've  been thinking about your mountain adventures," began Vic. "Actually, I've been thinking about the fact that you haven't had many since high school. I would love to go with you to some of your favorite places - not scaling peaks - I don't think I'm a peak scaler - but backpacking and camping out, and seeing mountain lakes and meadows."

   Greg rested his hand on her thigh. "That's a nice thought. Could the camping out include protecting each other from hypothermia?"

   She laughed. "You have a one-track mind but, sure, that could be part of it. Do you have a double sleeping bag, like your parents have?"

   "No, but with that incentive, I bet I could get one."

   "Okay, so where should we go first? Desolation Valley?"

   He paused just a second. "No, not there. Maybe one of my other favorite places, or maybe find a new area that will become our own favorite place. But not Desolation."

   "Why not? You loved it there."

   "I guess that's why not. I did love it, but I think it's changed so much that I would be really disappointed. I'd rather remember it as I knew it."

   "Why do you think it's changed?"

   "Oh, I know it's changed. I've talked to a number of people who've been in there in recent years,  and it's become really crowded - overused, I think. It was inevitable, being so close to Lake Tahoe, and so  accessible.

   "I was so lucky to be in the mountains so soon after the War, when people were just rediscovering car camping - like we did with the big family tent at Navarro - but before they really got back into hiking - particularly backpacking. To my advantage, trails and directional signs hadn't been kept up for a lot of years - all the foresters were in the military - so it wasn't always easy to find your way in the backcountry. That never bothered me - not sure why, because I was as much of a 'city slicker' as anybody - but it didn't.  Also, the equipment wasn't available yet for the average hiker. When we were backpacking and climbing in high school, we had to get all our stuff - boots, packs, sleeping bags - from the Army surplus stores. It was fine, but it was heavy and bulky, not the stuff that your average family wanted to carry around.

   "Today, you can get lightweight everything. You can get every kind of hiking boot or shoe you'd ever want. All the trails are maintained, again, and there are even guidebooks that describe every trail  in detail. Nobody needs much encouragement these days to set out for a day or two, or a week, in the wilderness.

   "Every place is affected by the increased interest and use, of course, but it's the areas like Desolation, that are so accessible, that are already getting hit hard. The reports I'm hearing - and I'm sure they're accurate - are that there's hardly a stick of burnable wood left. There were never many trees, but almost all have been cut down for campfires. People are camping too near the lakes and streams, and have polluted them. They aren't' carrying out their trash, and I guess at the more popular lakes, the smell - and sight - of human waste is pretty awful.

   "I think I want to remember it the way it was."

   "Wow, I don't blame you, I  guess. But it's so sad. Isn't there some way to limit the amount of use, or prevent that kind of damage?"

   "I think there are some things that could be done. They probably wouldn't be very popular, either with the ones who want to use an area, or with the local communities that want to encourage the tourism. I think, right now, that most of the agencies managing federal and state lands are in the accommodation mode, rather than regulation."

   "What do you mean?"

   "I don't think the park or forest managers are encouraging more people to come, but they're making things better for those who do come. For instance, they observe that they only have fifty campsites, but they have 100 families who want to camp. Solution: build more campsites, not limit the use or send the overflow elsewhere. Are there getting to be too many cars on the narrow park roads? Solution: widen the roads. Are people complaining that the trails are too rough? Smooth out the trails. See, it just seems like they're reacting to demand, rather than really considering what a park, forest, or wildlife refuge experience should be about."

   "So, you're saying that the managers should be thinking that this wilderness won't really be a wilderness if we keep crowding people into it. We should be discouraging, rather than encouraging?"

   "That is what I'm saying, yet - paradoxically - designating an area like Desolation as a National Wilderness is almost certainly going to increase the use, and make it less of a wilderness."


   "For the same reason that national parks are a more sought after destinations than are national forests. You never hear anybody say, I want to visit all the national forests in America, but visiting all the national parks is a common goal. Why? Just naming a place a national park gives it a prestige, a special standing. I think that, similarly, when you name a place a National Wilderness, you're going to make it a more desirable destination than the Primitive Area was, even though they're the same place.

   "One of the main reasons that a lot of people wanted a national wilderness system was for protection. National wildernesses are created by laws drafted by Congress, and signed by the President. Laws can be changed, but it's hard. On the other hand, a primitive area is just an administrative decision by the Forest Service. If they wanted to change the management on a primitive area - or get rid of it, altogether - they could just change their mind, so to speak, and designate it as something else. Most of our national wildlife refuges were established by  executive order - the President just signed a declaration that said the area was a refuge. The only problem is that the next President - or ten presidents later - can sign another executive order that says it isn't a refuge, anymore."

   "Hmm. So, we need the law to protect the wilderness, but if we have a law, we probably are reducing the protection to  the wilderness?"

   "Paradox, right? Or, at least, unintended consequences. But to be accurate, it's probably only a really serious problem for areas as accessible and desirable as Desolation. Use of all the wildernesses - and national parks, national forests, and national wildlife refuges - will increase just because the number of people who want to use them will increase. For most of them, it will just be the result of increasing human population. Despite the possible problems, I still think a national wilderness system is a good idea. I just hope somebody gives some serious thought to how to administer it."

   "Okay, I get it, I think. No Desolation, but we can still find some good mountain areas of our very own."

   "I would like that very much. Talk about a double bonus: mountains, and you. I don't think there's anything else I could ask for."

   "So, are we going to buy a double sleeping bag?"

   "I'll start looking as soon as we get home."


   They stopped in Ukiah for gas, but decided to eat Merry's picnic lunch while they drove. North of Ukiah, they left the farmlands behind, and started a climb into the hills. The road was mostly two-lane, and numerous asphalt patches were evidence of regular wash-outs in the past.

   "As I learned in my geology class in college, this is a very unstable area - loose soil types, steep hills, lots of rain, and quite a bit of general seismic shaking means that they lose bits of this road almost every winter. Considering how important the road is for both tourism and general business, it always seemed to me that it should be a prime candidate for a complete rebuilding, or maybe a relocation. It doesn't seem to be, however. They just keep putting it back together. Maybe there isn't any logical alternative.

   "Another interesting feature of this area is the herd of white deer."

   "White deer? You mean, albinos?"

   "No, just white-colored. They're fallow deer, from Europe, that were introduced here around 1950. I guess when they're young, they're spotted - sort of like pictures of Bambi, as a fawn, but paler - but they turn all white as they grow up. I don't know if you can really call them an attraction - I don't think people come especially to see them - but everybody talks about them."

   "Why were they introduced?"

  "I just think it was a rich guy, wanting to do something unique. He bought them from William Randolph Hearst - the millionaire newspaper guy - who had originally brought them from Europe for his land south of Monterey. As I said, everybody knows about them, and sometimes you can see them from the highway."

   "Did you ever see any?"

   "You know, it's funny, but I don't think I did. Every time a bunch of us would drive by here, on our way to or from college, we'd talk about them, but I don't have any clear memory of ever seeing one of them. We used to talk about them like they were ghosts, or something. You know, if you just happened to glance up the hill at the right moment..."

   "But you never did."

  "Apparently not. You know, I'm starting to wonder where we should aim for to spend tonight. It's not the height of tourist season yet, but I'm thinking we probably should stop fairly early, to make sure we can find motel vacancies. Garberville is about an hour and a half away. We'll pass the first nice redwood area before we get there - Richardson Grove - but then, tomorrow morning, we'll be going right into one of the very best - the Avenue of the Giants."

   "The Avenue of the Giants. Wow, that sounds impressive."

  "Believe me, it lives up to its name."


   Vic was sleeping when they arrived at Richardson's Grove. Traffic was fairly heavy, as it's the first important tourist stop going north, but Greg found a place to pull off the road, and shut off the engine. Vic stirred, opened her eyes, and gave him a sleepy smile before she looked around her. She started to cry.

   "Of course, I've seen pictures, but this is so much more, isn't it? I mean... This is truly amazing, isn't it?"

   "It is, and it's just a little taste of what we'll see tomorrow. There'll be some quieter spots, and places we can walk and really get to feel the forest. Do you want to get out for a minute, and really look up and around?"

   She did, and he joined her. A lot of cars passed, but they couldn't take anything away from her first feel of the giant trees. She just stood and stared.

   Most of the traffic was associated with the grove and the state park. After a mile of twisting through the big trees, they were back in the open, with only moderate vacation traffic. They crossed the Eel River three times, passed the expansive Benbow Inn resort, and climbed a small hill to the town of Garberville. Just beyond the northern city limits, they found a vacancy in a small motel set beside the river. They had a "pretty good" dinner at a nearby cafe, walked beside the river for a  while, took a few photographs, then retired to bed early.


   Tuesday morning, they drove north about 25 miles to Meyers Flat, where Greg exited Highway 101. "We're going to take a little slower route for the next thirty miles or so," he said. "This is actually the original highway, but has been renamed Avenue of the Giants. Most of the through traffic will stay on the highway, so people like us can amble along at a slower speed, and enjoy what is probably the best stretch of redwood forest in the world. So you don't get mad at me, like you did at Tahoe, I'll save my tour guide speech, and just let the forest speak to you by itself."

   She was using the middle seat belt, so she easily stretched up to kiss his cheek. "I wasn't mad. I was just experiencing."

   "I know, so that's what we're doing today - experiencing."

   There was a lot to experience. They were early enough in the day that, while they didn't have the road completely to themselves, traffic was very light, and everyone seemed to be doing what they were doing - taking it slow, and really taking in their environment. Mile after mile, the road followed a slim corridor between massive redwoods. Every so often, Greg would spot a trail sign, they'd stop the car, and wander into the forest. The growth on the forest floor was luxuriant - sword fern, salal, both red and green huckleberries - all in a bed of lower-growing vegetation. Winter wrens were singing their roller coaster melodies, and the varied thrushes were giving their loud, sharp, un-thrushlike calls. Greg wanted to tell Vic about how many summers passed in the redwoods before he could identify that strange thrush call,  but she seemed lost in her own reverie. She had said very little since they left the highway. She just looked. He just let her.

   It took them almost two hours to drive thirty miles, but neither got tired of the deep forest of tall trees. Greg knew that the light in the forest could be "iffy," so he took a lot of photos of Vic. She took some of him, and - as they'd done at Tahoe - they recruited a passing couple to take several pictures of them together.

   When they merged back on Highway 101 near the town of Scotia, it felt to Vic almost like she had been holding her breath the whole time. She let it out with a burst of sound.

   "Oh, my, that was nearly unbelievable, wasn't it? Did we really just drive by thirty miles of gigantic trees? When you told me yesterday that was just 'a taste' of what was to come, I thought you must mean there would be more little groves like that one, all along the way.  Nothing like we just experienced!"

   "Can I give you my tour guide speech, now?"

  "Yes, please."

   "Okay. Except for a couple of groves just across the Oregon border near Brookings, all the native coastal redwoods are in California. They're found from south of Monterey all the way to Oregon, but most are in isolated little tracts. Only from Richardson's Grove north are there really large forests of them. There used to be a lot more redwoods, some say as many as two million acres of them. Now, there are probably no more than about 120,000 acres. That sounds like a lot but, remember, our refuge is about 20,000 acres, and that doesn't seem all that big, does it?"

   "So, did all the rest of the original two million acres get cut down? If so, why did we let it happen?"

   "Yes, they did get cut down. Redwood is an amazing building wood. It's insect resistant, mold and other disease-resistant, and although all wood will eventually burn, it's quite fire resistant. Add that it makes very pretty lumber, and that there's enough lumber in one tree to build an entire house, and it was just too desirable for the loggers to pass up. A lot of the cutting started back in Gold Rush days, and continued to the present.

   "Why did we let it happen? Probably one of the reasons at first was that not too many people knew what was going on. There weren't many people on the North Coast except loggers and fishermen, and although people knew about redwoods, they were almost mythical. Could there really be trees hundreds of feet tall, and hundreds of years old?

   "Maybe the big thing was that there wasn't much government land with redwood trees. If there had been, some of the trees might have been set apart in a national forest or national park. But the redwoods were on private property, lumber interests weren't interested in selling, and the federal government wasn't interested in getting into any big fights with rich industrialists. When somebody finally got worried, it was individuals and private groups in the early 1900s that started to buy the forests. Most of what is preserved today has been done by groups like Save the Redwoods League. That's why there aren't big, continuous blocks preserved. The private groups have just bought whatever was available, and what they could afford. The California State Parks Department has been getting more involved recently, but there still isn't any federal action toward saving what remains. There's been talk about a Redwood National Park, tying all the bits and pieces together, and buying more trees in the intervening spaces. I'm pretty skeptical about that. Being the daughter and wife of federal refuge people, you know about the general dislike and suspicion that rural people have for the government. It wouldn't be an easy fight., particularly since most of the economy of the North Coast is logging-based. That, coupled with how expensive the purchases would be, doesn't give me confidence that the efforts will go very far."

   "So, what's saved is probably all that will be saved?"

  "Not necessarily all, but I wouldn't count on much more being preserved. At least, there should always be enough for redwoods-deprived young women raised in North Dakota or Idaho  to come and have an unforgettable experience."

   "Well, that's good to know. Oh, I was going to ask you, did you hear that weird, loud, screechy sound back in the forest? It was very odd."

   Greg laughed. "I wanted to tell you a story about that. Every spring, I would hear that sound in the redwood grove up behind the college, but I could never figure out what was making it. I think it was my third year that I finally heard the call and saw the bird at the same time. It was a varied thrush.

   "Something is wrong with that bird. I've wondered if God was on something psychedelic when he made it..."


   "Or maybe he was bored, and just felt like being creative. It always has looked to me like he was going for another basic robin-type bird, but that seemed too mundane to him. Instead of the well-known 'robin redbreast,' he borrowed some of the orange color from an oriole, and painted the breast. That still didn't seem right, so he decided to dress it up with a dark 'V,' like a meadowlark. He didn't get the 'V' quite as deep - not the plunging neckline look of the meadowlark - but it certainly wasn't a robin.

   "So, he'd made this mixed up robin-oriole-meadowlark creature, and he knew it wouldn't be right to  give it a typical melodious thrush-like song. He started with the rusty gate call of the yellow-headed blackbird, but that wasn't quite weird enough for his new creation. He changed the blackbird call so it was longer and shriller. Voila, a new species found mainly in the redwoods!"

   "Somehow, I don't think it was God who was the one on drugs. I'll have to see this magical bird, some day."

   As they talked, they'd left the dense forest behind, and entered an area of mixed woods and pastureland along the Eel River. They passed through a number of small communities including Rio Dell and Fortuna. They had lunch and gassed up the car in Eureka, the only real "city" on the North Coast, if a town with a population of about 30,000 can qualify as a city.

   Between Eureka and Arcata, the highway followed closely along the shore of Humboldt Bay, and at one point, Greg directed Vic's attention to the right, across an open pasture area. "The big screen you can see over there is the Bayshore Drive-in, famous among the local college and high school kids."

   "My mother told Mandy and me about drive-ins - I think she phrased it something like the dangers and delights, or maybe the pleasures and perils, of drive-ins. Apparently, the main idea is not about seeing the movie."

   "Really? Maybe that was my problem. I would see that a movie I wanted to watch was playing, and I'd ask a girl if she wanted to see it with me. If she said yes, we'd go, but as soon as it got dark and the movie started, she'd want to kiss me. It was a little disconcerting, because I really wanted to see the movie, but I didn't want to ignore her wishes and make her feel bad. I did miss a few scenes when her lips got between me and the screen, but I was never away long enough to really lose the plot. I have to admit that the girls didn't always seem happy with my efforts, but I didn't know what else I could have done."

   Vic stayed silent for a moment. "Greg, if anybody but you had told me that story, I wouldn't have believed it for a minute. But, knowing my own early attempts at gaining your attention, it seems almost possible. Having said that, even though you were young and naive, I find it very unlikely that you didn't miss an occasional scene, on purpose - particularly with Mary Beth?"

   He smiled, but didn't look at her. "My memory from so long ago is pretty hazy, but it's just possible that..."

   "Considering that you are older, smarter, and much closer to me than you were to any of those other girls, why haven't you ever taken me to a drive-in?"

   This time, he did look at her when he smiled. "Because, my lovely Victoria, you may remember that, rather early in our relationship, we'd done everything we could possibly have done in a drive-in, in much more comfortable settings, and without the distraction of a movie."

   Now, she smiled. "Yes, now that you mention it, I do seem to remember that."


   Another mile along the way, Greg turned off the highway, and drove a few blocks up the hill to the east. "We really need to move along, but I wanted to give you a quick look at my home for the four years before I met you. I really loved it here, the school and the surroundings."

   "It's a pretty campus."

   "Yes, they're always building and revamping, but they've managed to keep it compact and friendly. You can see the redwood trees up behind the administration building. That's where I first heard and saw the varied thrushes."

   He drove a loop back down the hill, and on to the highway, headed north again. "I didn't do very well in school the first year - barely made it - but I loved the place from the first day. It rains or is foggy most of the school year - not like today, with the bright sunshine - and a lot of the  students hated it. I didn't. It just always felt right to me. I miss it."

   After a bit more driving, he picked up the conversation again. "You know, I'm still thinking about the drive-in. In retrospect, it seems to me that showing movies - and watching movies - could never have been the reasons for having a drive-in theater at that particular spot. All through the school year, it's likely to rain so heavily that watching a movie is almost impossible. Even of more concern, dense fog will often roll in off the bay just about the time the movie starts, and often you can't see the hood of your car, let alone the movie screen. Do you suppose that the drive-in theater operators knew all along that they were actually renting out lover's lane parking spaces, not movie watching spaces?"

   She grinned. "You may be on to something."


   There had been a few places on the drive north from Arcata where glimpses could be had of the ocean. It wasn't until Greg turned off Highway 101 into the community of Trinidad that it was suddenly laid out before them. Greg drove down to the beach, and stopped the car, facing west. Vic didn't say anything for over a minute.

   "Well, I now know why there isn't an ocean in either North Dakota or Idaho. It wouldn't fit."

   "I suppose that could be the reason."


   "Circumstance? What do you mean?"

   "I mean there may not be one simple reason. It may be that there are a number of circumstances working together to preclude its existence in either of those states. It's possible that the same reason doesn't apply to both states."

   "Well, I repeat what you said about my drive-in theory. You may be on to something. Now, as much as I would like to view you on the beach in a skimpy bikini, this doesn't seem to be quite the time or weather for it. Instead, what would you say to going down on the beach, taking off our shoes and socks, rolling up our pants legs, and getting our toes damp in the Pacific Ocean?"

    "I think that sounds like a very nice idea."

   They walked along the water's edge for about a half-hour. It wasn't bikini weather, but the sky was clear, the air was warm, and the water felt good on their feet. Greg took a few photos. "It would be nice to play around here for a while," he said. "And maybe spend the night, if there's a motel room available. It would probably be wiser if we drove another hour, and stayed overnight in Crescent City. If we don't do that, it will mean two pretty long driving days to Boise. It is doable, just a long time in the car, and probably pretty hot. I know you don't know the terrain, but do you have any immediate thoughts about what you'd like to do?"

   She walked and thought. "As you say, I don't really know the pros and cons, except that you say not going on will make our next two days pretty long. I like it here, and I think this might be a very nice place to watch the sunset. What's Crescent City like?"

   "Well, that's kind of my problem in making a decision. I am very familiar with Crescent City as it was three or four years ago, but the Alaska tsunami destroyed quite a bit of the town, and I just don't know how much has been rebuilt."

   "Tsunami? You mean, like a tidal wave?"

   "Yep, actually three or four tidal waves. Remember the Alaska earthquake in March 1964? It was the largest in North American history - 9.1, I think - and the second largest ever recorded in the world. I don't think it did much structure damage outside Alaska, but I know Seattle got a pretty good shake. I was in college  at the time, and I don't think we felt the actual quake, at all, but it spawned quite a few tidal waves, including three or four that hit Crescent City. The first ones were bad enough - six or eight feet high - but the last one sent a wave over 20 feet high right through town. It pretty much wiped out downtown Crescent City, and took out all the motels and other businesses along the beach. It was big-time disaster!

   "It's been over two years since that happened, and I assume they've rebuilt quite a bit, probably including things like motels and restaurants that serve the tourist and business trade that the town really needs. What I haven't been able to find out is if it's easy or hard to find a place to stay. I'm pretty sure we'd find something but, if not, it's a couple hours to the next logical spot for the night."

    A little bigger wavelet washed over their feet, and Vic instinctively kicked out, making a nice spray of water. She liked the effect so much that she did it again, turned and grabbed Greg's hands, and jumped up and down in the water. She smiled broadly.

   "Oh, I like this, Greg! Even if there was an ocean in Idaho, I don't think it could be this good."    She calmed down a bit. "So, about the long days home. Are they hard days, or just long?"

   He was enjoying watching her. "What? Oh, I've never been in Oregon, but on the map it doesn't look like any real problems. There are several possible routes, all about the same length. One might take us up the west side of Crater Lake but, other than that, it doesn't look like there are any major attractions to slow us down.

   "Probably our only real consideration is your appointment in Boise on Friday morning. If, on Thursday morning, it looked like just a little more driving than we want to handle in one day, we might be able to call and get your appointment moved to Friday afternoon, or even Saturday morning."

   Vic gazed out over the ocean. "I think I would like to stay here tonight, if possible. Shall we see if we can get a motel room?"

   They did secure a room for the night in a small, older but well kept up, motel. It wasn't on the beach, and didn't have any big picture windows facing west, but did have a nice view down to the ocean. The owner directed them to a local restaurant, where they had salmon filets and steamer clams. It was still light when they finished, but the sun was started to descend to the west. Greg suggested they get their coats, and walk down to the beach for the sunset. While Vic went to their room to get ready, Greg stopped to talk to the proprietor.

   "My wife was raised inland, and had never seen redwood trees or the ocean. We've taken care of both of those desires. One that's left is to toast some marshmallows over a fire. She's never done that. Is there a place one can legally have a little fire on the beach?"

   "How about this? We have a little fire ring in back of the motel. I can start a fire for you, and we even have some skewers you could borrow. All you'd have to do is supply the marshmallows."

   Greg laughed. "That sounds excellent. I assume the market up the street would have some of those. We're going down on the beach to watch the sunset. Could we have the fire just after dark?"

   It was agreed, and Greg was able to make a quick trip to the grocery without Vic knowing he had gone. As they started to walk to the beach, the sun was just reaching the top layer of a cloud bank to the west. They took off their shoes, and let the water surge in and out around their feet as the sky turned progressively yellow, orange, red, and purple, until all united in a burst of color as the sun disappeared into the ocean. They took more pictures, stood together in the growing darkness until all the color had faded, then walked back up to their motel.

   "One last, little thing before we go in," said Greg, as he led her to the back of the motel, where a fire was glowing. Chairs had been set up beside it. Greg handed Vic a skewer. "Janna said that you had to experience marshmallow toasting before we went home. So, here we are."

   He showed her how to spear a marshmallow. "It's like baiting a hook for a first-time fisherman or woman. I show you the basics, then it's up to you. Now, you may be tempted to put the marshmallow directly into the flames, let it catch fire, then eat the delicious burned covering before consuming the equally delicious melty inner part. That's okay - different strokes for different folks, as they say - but the true toasted marshmallow connoisseur twirls it slowly so that all sides become golden-brown. Still, nobody is going to put you down, however you decide you like best."

   They played around the fire for almost an hour. Vic charred a couple of marshmallows on purpose, but decided she liked the connoisseur's way best. They returned the skewers to the managers, thanked them for the fire, and made their way back to their room.

   Vic linked her arm with Greg's. "Wow!" she exclaimed. "Gambling. Tahoe. Fun family visits. Redwood trees. An ocean. Sunset. Marshmallows. This has been some honeymoon, hasn't it? I know it's not over yet, but I was thinking about one more thing I'd like to do to kind of top off this segment of it."

   "You still want more? What did you have in mind?"

   "What about this? You take me to bed, and we make urgent, intense love until we both fall asleep, completely happily exhausted?"

   Greg seemed to be considering it. "Okay, if it's what you want. I don't see any problem with that."

   "I thought you might feel that way."


   When the sun began to shine into their room Wednesday morning, they were still curled up together. "Was that the 'top off' that you were looking for?" Greg asked.

   "It was very nice. We didn't exactly fall into exhausted sleep at the end, but I thought what we did was better. That last half-hour of gradually increasing intensity to a nearly earth-shaking climax was pretty great."

   "Well, as noted in the story of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race."

   "Yes, the tortoise certainly came across the finish line in very good order, but I have nothing but praise for the couple of earlier sprints that the hare won."

   "Maybe an old saying is appropriate here - variety is the spice of life."


   They had a very tasty shrimp-crab omelet for breakfast, and were soon on their way north, again. It was another bright, sunny day, and early morning traffic was light. Much of the highway was two-lane, and they occasionally lugged down behind a logging truck or delivery van for a mile or two, but in general they moved right along.

   Greg pointed out some of the landmarks along the way, including Patrick's Point (he regretted they didn't have time to enjoy its ocean views this trip), and the lagoons - Big, Stone, and Freshwater. They stopped briefly at Prairie Creek State Park, so they could watch the elk herd. (He really wanted to take one of his favorite hikes with her - through a pristine redwood forest  to the coast, and into Fern Canyon. They'd have to make another trip for that.) They passed Trees of Mystery, a "tourist trap" (but a fun one) with its gigantic statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. They came out of a lovely area of redwoods to a steep hill that led down to Crescent City. For the last mile into town, they drove at beach level.

   "They've obviously been doing some rebuilding," Greg observed. "I don't think anything on the beach side of the highway survived the waves. Right about here was one of our favorite destinations - not really a diner, just kind of an ice cream shack. They served the most fantastic banana splits that you could ever imagine. A couple of times during the school year, a bunch of us would drive up here - probably stopping to hike at Prairie Creek first - but making sure that we made it here for a whole banana, two giant scoops of ice cream, and a topping of nuts and various fruit concoctions and syrups. They were magnificent. I assume the shack was completely crushed by the waves."

   They stopped briefly for gas, but then continued inland on Highway 199. They passed through the Jedediah Smith redwood groves - lovely, and the last they would see this trip - then climbed up the Smith River canyon into Oregon. The road was good, but with more twists and turns than any road Vic had ever been on, and there were frequent rocks on the road that Greg had to dodge around. It was maybe a little scary, but the views were tremendous.

   "The Smith is supposed to be one of the clearest, least modified rivers in the entire country," tour guide Greg volunteered at one point.

   "It certainly is scenic." Vic was quiet for a while, as if thinking. "You know, we didn't get to go to that place in your dream - you know, the high bluff where we looked far out over the ocean. Did we miss it?"

   "I don't think so. I've had it in my mind it's halfway up the Oregon coast. I've never been there, of course, but it just seemed to me that's where it is. Anyway, I think that's meant for another trip. You remember that our kids are in the dream, too, so it's still in the future. I'm confident we'll find it at the right time."

   "That's good. I didn't want to miss it. I'd forgotten about the kids being  in it." She paused. "What I didn't forget is that we were both naked in your dream. Do you think that will be part of the real thing, when it happens?"

   Greg smiled. "It's possible that I was extemporizing a bit at that point, trying to make the dream  even more interesting than it was. Anyway, if it doesn't happen then, I'm sure it will occur, sometime."

   "At least, you certainly hope so."


   Just before leaving California, they stopped at a new-looking rest area, set in an attractive forest near the summit of the Siskiyou Mountains. After using the facilities, Greg found an information sign, and told Vic what it said.

   "This site looks new, because it is. Just ahead of us, and taking us into Oregon, is the Collier Tunnel, that just opened in 1963. The sign says that completing the tunnel took about four miles off the trip, including 125 curves and switchbacks, six hairpin turns, and some very steep grades. That sounds like an improvement, doesn't it?"

   "I'm plenty impressed, even without the curves, switchbacks, and hairpin turns."

   "The immediate question is, what do we do for the rest of today and tomorrow? Oregon being new territory for both of us, we have to depend on whatever we can figure out from maps, I guess. I did a little compiling while we were in Oakland, and it looks like there are two obvious ways to get to Boise by Friday morning. Neither looks complicated, but - as we discussed before - it's a long way to go.

   "Oregon seems to have two problems that affect our travel. The first is that no road just goes straight across the state to Idaho. Every road goes up and down in a way that looks like it makes the distances about twice what the proverbial crow would have to fly to get to the same destinations. The reason for this indirect travel is that the roads connect towns, rather than having any long-distance travel aspirations. There are very few towns in southeast Oregon, which means that there are few places for us to find a motel for tonight.

   "I said there are two ways we could go. On the map, it looks like the actual distance to Boise from here is very similar both routes. What makes the difference for us is the way the towns are spaced. If we went north, we'd need to stop about 5 o'clock, because the next town is just too far away. That would leave us about a seven hour drive tomorrow. If we took the more easterly route, we'd have to drive until about 7 o'clock tonight, but then would only have about four hours to cover tomorrow."

   "So, what are you thinking?"

   "I don't have enough really good information, but I'm leaning toward the shorter drive this afternoon. We've already put in some tough miles, and I have a feeling we're both going to be ready to stop by dinner time. Tomorrow will be long, but I don't think there are any mountain passes, or switchbacks, or hairpin turns. I think it's just distance."

   "Let's go north, then."

   After passing through the Collier Tunnel, it was all more or less straight road through the Illinois River valley to Grants Pass, meeting the freeway briefly before veering off to the north again. The road they took was fairly busy, as it was one route to Crater Lake. They had considered detouring up to the lake, but found that the road along the lake rim was still being cleared of snow. (It often wasn't open until July.) North of the national park, they turned east to meet U. S. 97, which they took through open yellow pine forests all the way to Bend, Oregon. There they found a good motel, a good meal, and a good night's rest.

   As expected, their road to Boise on Thursday was long, but straight and little traveled. They took turns driving, passed through Burns - the only significant town - by noon, and crossed the Snake River into Idaho before 4 o'clock. An hour later, they were settled in a motel in Boise.

   Back in their room, after a nice dinner, they sat side by side on the couch. "The last night of our honeymoon," Vic observed.

   "It is. We better really make the most of it."

   "Yes, we better."

   About midnight, they woke enough to help one another get from the couch to the bed, where they both slept blissfully until Friday morning.


   "Wow, that was some send-off, wasn't it?" Greg asked, as he yawned and stretched.

   Vic giggled. "Well, it was obviously what we both needed. Besides, our honeymoon never ends. We just move on to the next phase. There will be many more opportunities."

   Greg suggested they move on to the "next phase" right then, but Vic reminded him that she had a wedding gown fitting to get to. They dressed and went out for breakfast. Greg asked at the motel desk if it would be any trouble if they were a little late for the 11 o'clock check-out. The clerk agreed to hold the room until noon. They made it to the bridal shop on time, and Vic gathered up her high heels and undergarments of the kind she would wear with the gown.

   "You can come in with me if you want, just to see the place and confirm my schedule, but then you have to leave. I don't think this is going to take very long. Most of it was done when I bought the gown, I think, and unless I put on twenty pounds on our trip..."

   "It would be all in marshmallows, if you did."

   "Ha ha. Well, I didn't, so..."

   "No, I don't think you did. You look remarkably trim to me. Of course, I'd have to inspect your body closer and in more detail to be sure."

   "You have had adequate opportunity lately to closely inspect my body. Any more looking you did would be for fun, not for bridal gown fitting. I'm going in, now."

   "I'll stay here, and get the trunk arranged so you can slip your gown in without my seeing it. I don't think there's any parking time limit here, so I'll probably just sit in the car, and wait for you."

   As Vic had suspected, the fitting was really just a "try on," to double-check that everything was correctly marked, and to make sure that all the alteration seams were straight and flat and looked  flawless when the gown was put on.  She was as pleased with the dress as she had been when she first tried it on. All the work was done in a little over an hour, and the gown was safely stored in the car's trunk. They checked out of the motel, and headed home, their only stop being for lunch in Twin Falls.


To The Writing It Down Homepage

Leave a Comment:

© Sanford Wilbur 2024